I found Gretel at a Doberman Rescue in Columbus, Georgia. The rescue people showed me 10 dogs but Gretel stood out to me as the one I needed and who needed me.
We were told that she was an abused pup and would need extra care. How very right they were. She was afraid if a napkin fell on the floor :-) She was scared of thunder, lightening, fire crackers, any thing that went boom.
One week after getting Gret, I had to go to Texas to pick up my wonderful step daughter, Diana. I figured that would be a good time for my husband, Ken, and Gretel to bond. The second night after I was gone, she ran away. My heart was so broken. I just couldn't believe that that had happened. Ken spent hours and days combing Ft. Benning looking for her. He called all of the local police and animal shelters looking for her. He was so sick!
I was returning to Georgia and Ken called to find out where Diana and I were at the time. We were in Phenix City, just about 30 miles from Ft. Benning. Then he said, "Mozart is in our back yard. Wait!!! No, it's Gretel, she's come home!!!!" He slammed the phone down. I couldn't wait to get home. When Diana and I got there, we saw our poor Gretsky girl, skinny, covered with ticks and fleas and filthy from being out in the wilds for 5 days. What a joy it was to have her home again. We were so thrilled, no words could describe it! Dad and Gretel had a tradition. Every morning, she would come to the kitchen and he always gave her 3 puppy snacks. Either Beggin Strips or some other yummy doggy treat. Another tradition for them was that at night, she would come into bed with us. She always snuggled with him. Especially if there was a bad storm out. BUT, the minute either one of us moved, off the bed she went to her puppy bed, next to us.
We moved in 2001 to Wisconsin, after Ken retired from the Army. Gretel seemed to love it here. She loved the snow, would play in it for the longest time, even though she had such a short coat. I even made her a fleece coat to wear when the temps would get in the low teens and sub-zero's. She didn't like it but she put up with me :-)
Last year, Gret's health seemed to be on the decline. She became incontinent when she was sleeping. That never bothered me. I just got some extra bedding for her and washed her beds several times a day. We had bought some land in the UP of Michigan and put a trailer up there last year. Gretel loved it up there. She would sniff around but never went far from any of us. She loved to run along with us when we were on the tractor. She wasn't very vehicle smart, as she would run in front of it and friend, Kenny, would bump her with the bucket! Knowing that she was on the decline, my husband thought it would be a good idea to get a new puppy. We did, another Doberman, whom we named Dozer. He used to drive her nuts! He would pull on her tail, nip her ears and she took it like a trooper. He taught her so much and she, him. She learned to be more people friendly from Dozer and he learned some manners from her.
Our last trip up to the UP was heart breaking. Gretel could hardly get up the steps that Kenny built for her last year. (She wouldn't even attempt to go up the trailer's regular steps.) I had to help her down them, getting up was a bit easier. The last Friday, Karen saw her jump up in the morning. It was a tradition for Gretel and I to go on a walk in the morning. I always took my coffee and we would go down the trail. When in the past, I didn't move fast enough for her, she'd bark at me, and look down the road and walk a bit toward the trail. I always gave in and went for the walk. Sometimes, I didn't go far, I'd let her get around a bend and then I'd head for home :-) Shortly thereafter, Gret would come looking for me and head for the camp fire. On that last Friday, she wanted to go for her walk. We did but this time, Dozer, our latest addition to the family, went with us. Gret and Dozer went trotting down the trail. I couldn't believe how fast she was going, as she had such a bad time with her hips. But trot she did. She was showing Dozer the ropes. She spent most of the day out of the trailer. When I finally was able to get her to go to the trailer, she just looked at the steps as if to say, "I can't do this any more". I got her in, but from the look in her eyes, she wasn't about to go out again. That night, after I went to bed, I heard Karen, my sister. She was sitting on the floor with Gretel. Gret had been pulling herself across the floor, as she could no longer stand. Karen and I sat there crying for our poor girl. Dozer had his head in Karen's lap, just watching Gretel. I made the decision then that we had to bring her home and help her to cross the Rainbow Bridge. It was a decision that I had already made, as I was going to take her to the vet on the following Tuesday but for Gretel's sake, I couldn't put her through any more so Saturday morning we got up and got ready to go. Gretel never once attempted to leave the trailer that morning. She just stayed on her bed. When it was time to leave, Kenny came and carried her to the car. He took Dozer home in his car and Karen took Gretel and I.
It was a longer than usual trip home to say the least. Gretel was so calm and serene the whole trip. We stopped a few times but she didn't want to get out, so I just gave her water in a cup, which she happily took. During the trip, I would reach back and pet her. She would lick my hand, something that she didn't do very often in the past. I think it was her way of saying "It's OK, I'm ready".
When we got to the Animal Referral Center, it was all I could do to hold it together. I didn't do a good job of it but the staff there was so kind and understanding. Karen took their staff out to the car to get Gretskie. They lifted her bed onto the gurney and then slid the bed out from underneath her. When they brought her in, she was lying so nicely with her head held high. One of the tech's asked Karen if she was sure that we wanted to do this and Karen told them yes, as Gret could no longer get around. They took her back to put the catheter in her leg. They then led Karen and I to the Family room to await Gretel. That was such a long wait, although it was only a couple of minutes. They were so good to us, knowing the grief that we were feeling (I'm crying as I write this, as I can recall all of the details so vividly and Oh God, how I miss my sweet girl!). They brought her in on the gurney and then gently laid her on the floor. They gave us all of the time that we wanted to spend with Gretel before the Dr. came in. When he did come in, he was so sympathetic and gave us his condolences. He warned us that once he administered the drug, the effects would be rapid. I kissed her one last time and held her head while the Dr. gave the meds. It was such a peaceful end for my girl, who although she never complained of pain, was hurting.
Those with whom she came into contact with on a regular basis, she loved dearly. That included my sister, Karen and my husband's best friend, Kenny and our neighbors, Kelly and Todd. All showed Gretel unconditional love and kindness and she returned it to them in kind.
We had this wonderful dog for 11 of her 12+ years and I wouldn't change a day of it for any thing.
Kenny, Karen, Ken and I have shed many tears of grief for our beloved Gretel. But we all know that she is better where she is and that someday, we will see her again.
Until then Gretel, play like a puppy, love deeply and we will see you in the clouds over that Rainbow Bridge. Be waiting for me big Girl, I can't wait to see you again.